Travel Diary
May 23, 2003
Las Vegas, NV

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We've spent the last week in Las Vegas. It's an interesting city and we wanted to explore it beyond the neon and casinos of "the strip".

We visited the largest cactus garden in North America which happens to belong to a chocolate factory in town called Ethel M. They have great chocolate, and a beautiful garden full of all sorts of interesting cactus and other desert plants. These bees were hard at work on the flower at the top of a giant Saguaro cactus.

Saguaro Bees

West of the city is an area called Red Rock Canyon. There is a 13 mile scenic drive into the desert that takes you up close to the amazing rocky hills that frame the western edge of the valley. We saw several different kinds of lizards a few wild burros and a some ground squirrels. There is also a huge variety of interesting desert plants of which many were blooming at this time of year.

Red Rock Canyon

We also toured Hoover Dam. Completed in 1935 the Hoover Dam was built to generate power from the Colorado River. One side effect of the dam is the reservoir it created called Lake Mead which is the largest man-made lake in the world. The dam itself is an amazing bit of engineering. It is 726 feet tall - that's taller than Seattle's Space Needle or the Washington Monument. It is made from 6.6 million tons of concrete. That's enough concrete to build a 4 foot wide sidewalk around the earth at the equator. At the base of the dam the concrete is 660 feet thick. This gigantic concrete wedge holds back Lake Mead which has enough water to cover the entire state of Pennsylvania with a foot of water. The generators at the base of the dam produce 4 billion kilowatt-hours per year--enough for six million homes.

Hoover Dam

We've also enjoyed some great meals both in and out of the casinos, and Pete is still ahead after a couple of trips to the craps tables. Mostly, our memories of Las Vegas will be of the heat. Once again, it is unseasonable weather where we are with an early-heat wave sending temperatures into the low 100s. We're looking forward to getting back to Seattle's moderate climate.

Next week we head north on our way to Seattle with a couple of stops at some of Utah's national parks.

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